|System: X360, Wii, PS2, DS, GBA||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: THQ||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 19, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda Kondolojy
I will be the first to admit that Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my favorite TV shows. Next to House and Man vs. Wild, Avatar is my next can't-miss show. Some people may say that I'm a little too old for Nicktoons. But those people obviously haven't watched Avatar: The Last Airbender. Its unique mix of comedy, adventure, and drama make it one of the best American-based cartoons I've ever seen.
The entire story revolves around Aang, a young boy who has special bending powers over all the elements (air, water, earth, and fire) and is capable of restoring peace to a war-torn land. However, he is still a young boy and has a lot to learn before he can save the world. He is joined by pals Sokka and Katara, who are water benders, and Toph, who is an earth bender. The story deals not only with Aang's struggle against the evils in his world, but also with his self-discovery, relationships with those around him, and his continuing struggle with the weight of his own destiny.
Avatar: The Last Airbender--The Burning Earth takes place at the beginning of the second season (Book Two), during the invasion of Omashu. The game then takes you through the different events of Book Two, including the rescue of Bumi, the discovery of the swamp, and the addition of Toph to the group. It should be noted that the game does not give you any real backstory and thrusts you straight into the action. For the uninitiated I would suggest playing either the first Avatar game or watching the first season (Book One) before playing this game, as none of it will make much sense without prior plot knowledge. But for those with knowledge of both the first and second seasons, this game will tread some very familiar ground.
One very big key difference between the story mode in Avatar: The Last Airbender-The Burning Earth and its predecessor is that The Burning Earth sticks directly to the story. The first game had several RPG elements and allowed for side quests, had upgradeable weapons and armor, and provided a much deeper experience. The Burning Earth simply puts you in the role as one of the main characters and lets you play through the series as a strictly platform affair. Although some may see this as a bad thing, this was probably done to cater more to the younger audience, who found the original game a little too complex. However, judged on its own merits, the follow up does a good job of telling the story and providing solid platforming-style gameplay.
In addition to the simplification of gameplay, there is one very immediate difference between the previous Avatar game and The Burning Earth-the visuals. The first avatar game, while it was very fun, was an absolute horror to look at. Characters were blocky, environments were difficult to navigate; the whole thing just looked like a mess. This time, characters are smoothed out, environments are lush, and the whole game looks much better. However there is still one major snag that prevents the visuals from being top-notch. When you play through, there are full cinema scenes that are at the beginning and end of each chapter, and then there are interim cinema scenes that take place at various intervals during the game. During these interim scenes, characters will speak to each other and they either won't move their mouths at all, or they'll move them so slow that it looks like they're supposed to be yawning instead of speaking. This may sound like it's reaching a little, but trust me, it's a real problem considering the amount of dialogue in this game. It's honestly laughable every time the characters are supposed to be speaking, and my guess is that the humor is not intentional.
But humorous graphics aside, this game does provide some pretty fun gameplay. You go through some very simplistic stages, but each one has a few tricks you have to figure out before you can move forward. You may have to use some type of specialized bending to reach a switch, or use a ranged attack to flip a door open, or use some other fairly basic means so solve each room. You'll also encounter enemies along the way that you'll have to fight with either close or ranged attacks. In most cases your ranged attacks will be your elemental attack. There will also be circumstances where you'll have to pull off a rather elaborate bending move, called a focus move. These focus moves can either help you overcome certain environmental obstacles or fight an enemy. These moves will be triggered by an elemental symbol on the ground, and you'll have to get your character in place in order to perform the special move.